Friday, 27 February 2015

Pedagogy: can we understand it in terms of cooking meals?

I've written an article for the NZCER journal Curriculum Matters that is now published, as part of a special issue on metaphors in education. In it, I speculate on how to make concrete something as abstract as trying to understand what pedagogy is and why it matters. I did so because as an initial teacher education (ITE) educator, I teach those who want to be secondary teachers because they have a passion for their subject area, and want to know how to 'deliver' this to secondary school students. I put 'deliver' in speech marks because it is a naughty word - see Dianne's post  from last year where she takes to task 6 particular words in education.

What ITE students fast come to realise is that by becoming teachers, they must begin to understand what pedagogy is, and how different it is from delivery. The latter is about transmission, which has a limited place in this century's learning contexts. The former is about a whole other discipline. 'Delivery' is about telling students, pedagogy is about helping them learn and create knowledge for themselves, but under guidance. Broadly, delivery is about this question: "What shall I teach?", while pedagogy is about this question: "What do my students need to know?" This latter question implies knowing one's students, their immediate learning needs (whether a skill, a concept or an understanding), an ability to design targeted learning, and making the learning count for something. It implies creating the environment in which students have to think. Delivery, on the other hand, only needs to be about transmitting information/facts/stuff. It can be where a teacher can say they have covered the curriculum, but they can't also say they have helped students learn, unless they have done something other than delivery.

This is a long way of saying my article about metaphor attempted to make sense of pedagogy while using pedagogical design to do so. In other words, I was looking for a prior knowledge/experience starting point that would be the hook for this new learning. This hook, I decided, was food. I hazarded a guess that cooking and food was a common experience and knowledge point of everyone (even if the details of that experience differed for each person). So, I created a table in which I outlined key components of both cooking a meal and pedagogy, that would illuminate what teachers needed to consider to design tasty learning.

Here is my effort as it will appear in the article, and I'd like to know what you think of it so I can refine it. I would love some feedback on this!

The components of each are listed on the left, while the other two columns briefly outline my conception of how a recipe/meal can help us understand pedagogy:

Table 1: Recipes and pedagogy

  • specific ingredients  
  • proportions/measurements
  • utensils and equipment
  • student group and learning needs
  • class facilities
  • curriculum concepts
  • content
  • resources
  • thinking processes
How to create the product/the goal of a recipe (ie, the dish):
  • the mix/chemistry (knowing how and why certain processes affect cooking outcomes)
  • technical knowledge of cooking processes and combinations of ingredients
  • cooking times and effective use of equipment to make the recipe become good food
How to aim for a learning/curriculum goal:
  • the mix/chemistry (knowing how and why certain processes affect learning outcomes)
  • technical knowledge of learning and facilitation processes such as: metacognition, pedagogical design, timing, order, opportunity
  • using resources/equipment for meeting curriculum learning goals
  • specific organisation of learning to scaffold thinking and knowing
The order in which food processes need to happen:
  • order and combinations in mixing of ingredients
  • cooking receptacles
  • cooking times/cooking order
The order in which learning needs to happen:
  • beginning with prior knowledge
  • building block/scaffolding activities and skills to address prerequisite knowledge
  • processes (developing conceptual learning/problem-solving)
Plating and eating the food:
  • how it looks, smells, tastes
  • the degree of satisfaction in eating it
- a sensory and affective experience
The evidence of:
  • conceptual learning (abstraction, inference, analysis, justification, synthesis, reflection, judgement, threshold concepts)
  • procedural learning (understanding of process, method, order...)
  • metacognitive learning - learning how to learn/articulating strategies
  • the satisfaction (‘fun’/enjoyment) in the challenge/level of achievement and learning in the task
- a cognitive and affective experience
Feedback on the dish by the diners:
  • Look, taste and smell
  • Satisfaction (fullness, texture, size, how appetising it is)
  • Was it worth eating?

Evaluation by cook:
  • Is it worth creating again (cost, time, effort, effect on diners)?
  • Does it need refinement (what needs changing - taste, plating,...?)
  • Would different ingredients work?
  • with a different combination of diners, what needs changing (dietary needs, timing)?
Feedback and behaviours of learners:
  • Coming back for more when the learning is successful, satisfying, challenging  
  • evidence of realising it’s a work in progress that includes risk-taking, feedback and self-reflection
  • deciding if their own learning intentions/goals have been achieved...

Evaluation by teachers:
  • have learning goals been achieved?
  • does it need refinement/alteration?
  • what if different resources were used?
  • what was the learner experience like?
  • with a different class, how should it be modified? - resources, strategies, learning needs, order…
  • are curriculum goals satisfied by this design?

Friday, 20 February 2015

Teacher Education 2015

The beginning of semester looms and this is an exciting time in teacher education.

Despite the fact we are only about six weeks into the working year, I have taught in two teacher education programmes so far, and the third of my three online classes ‘went live’ in Moodle today. Alongside the teaching, I am pleased to have managed some research time, completing a substantial conference paper, wrapping up a journal issue, and participating in a couple of very productive meetings with colleagues about writing collaborations. It is shaping up to be a good year, and this is a good time to take stock and set goals. This post is about my priorities in a professional context, with a focus on teaching in particular. Thoughts about research can wait for another time.

I am in the midst of meeting the distance students from our MMP programme for the first time. This is a special time, and this morning I heard (and assessed) oral presentations from the brand new teacher education students, explaining what they see as the most important characteristics of the effective teacher they strive to become. With the invitation to link to life experiences and to self-knowledge and role models (as well as literature), this assignment was a very personalised challenge. The speeches were passionate, insightful and powerful, with a large helping of nerves. A good way to begin the course I think, as this expectation pushes new students to unfamiliar places by asking them to step up and articulate values and initial understandings about teaching. A tough ask on day three of one’s degree perhaps, but the career is full of tough challenges, and this one helps us to bond as a class community and to support each other through anxious times when learning is hard going.

The next step for the first year students is to start an eportfolio.

For this time around, we have expanded the number and range of entries, and will give teacher feedback on pairs of entries throughout semester, for formative purposes, while also incorporating peer feedback, prior to final submission. I am hopeful that the eportfolios will be established and maintained in a way that will support the students’ learning throughout their initial teacher education and beyond.

Alongside the eportfolio entries, we have the usual array of online discussion and in our third year class, we intend to extend the student leadership of online discussion so that students lead almost every discussion in the 7-week course. We have crafted assignments around discussion so that students will take turn selecting an article for critique, and leading their peers to unpack and debate the weekly theme. In the second half of the course, we are going to try an exercise entitled ‘Provocative Prompts’, inspired by McDonald et al’s protocols. In brief, the intention of this exercise is to engage with diverse perspectives, and students are asked to read widely and select quotes related to the weekly topic – For example, 'Teachers and professional ethics' looks set to be a relevant and thought provoking topic.

Students are asked to select a quote that is deliberately provocative – one they can imagine others either agreeing or disagreeing with. They enter discussion by posting the provocative prompt in its own thread, and their challenge is then to read and reflect on the quotes posted by group members.

That is, they make three further postings before the week ends:

1.   Agreement – post a response to a quotation that resonates with you. In your post, explain why you agree with the point made in the quotation. Justify your agreement. Provide evidence to support your case. Link to theory and to practice. Deadline: day 3. Title: ‘Agreement’.

2.   Disagreement – post a response to a quotation that irritates you. In your post, explain why you disagree with the point made in the quotation. Justify your stance. Provide evidence to support your disagreement and alternative position. Link to theory and to practice. Deadline: day 6. Title: ‘Disagreement’.

3.   New insights – On day 7, return to read and reflect upon the responses to your own quote, and to the quotes that resonated and irritated. Read all the responses from your peers. Make one final post in which you sum up in the ‘new insights’ thread in order to share any new ideas you have formed as a result of reading other perspectives on the quotes. You may link to further literature and practice at this point.


  • Initial quotations are relevant to the weekly theme, and provocative in terms of inviting a range of viewpoints
  • Quotations are correctly linked and referenced
  • Dis/Agreement is illustrated clearly, with a high standard of reasoning and justification, supported by evidence
  • The response demonstrates understanding of links between theory and practice
  • New insights are perceptive, illustrate open-mindedness, and sum up ideas
  • Postings are made by deadlines set – start, middle, day 6 and day 7
  • Postings are within the word limit (quotes around 150 words, other posts 250 max)
  • A high standard of written presentation, accurate spelling, punctuation, grammar, and paragraphing is evident.
In these ways, we are asking student teachers to lead and teach, and to take increasing responsibility for selecting content and peer mentoring. Importantly, we have established parameters and guidelines, and will be actively present to scaffold throughout the courses.

I intend to help students to structure their studies by continuing with weekly podcasts, including the fun and messy conversational podcasts with my colleague Bill. We chatted and blundered our way through our first Panopto recording for the year just yesterday, and I’ve put a few notes in Moodle to direct students to the link and to summarise the key content. Students in semester A, 2014, told us they enjoyed our casual yet informative weekly casts. I’ll also use Panopto to screencast instructions for the students who are using Moodle and MyPortfolio for the first time. Twitter will still be important, with class hashtags and regular synchronous tweetmeets this semester. POPLN will again be a feature of our communication technologies and lifelong learning option. I am hopeful that the students will find the revised assessments challenging, authentic, creative and a fair test of learning. I know I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with! It is sure to be varied and to contribute to my learning and enjoyment.

Have you documented some of your teaching and learning intentions for this coming semester?

Care to share these?

Monday, 16 February 2015

What I've been reading

I've been reading some texts that are quite old, in the scheme of published things. One of these is Putnam and Borko's (2000) What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? I was interested in finding out if these 'new views' had changed in the intervening 15 years. They discuss the idea of 'situated cognition' and its relationship to how people learn, and specifically, how teachers "themselves learn new ways of teaching" (p. 4). This, as Putnam and Borko point out, is relevant to inquire into if we are to think about initial teacher education as well as in-service professional development.

Of course they were writing in a context that did not yet have ubiquitous wifi or mobile devices you can put in your pocket and yet use as a computer. Good sense is good sense. How about this comment they cite from Pea (1993, p. 75): "Socially scaffolded and externally mediated, artifact-supported cognition is so predominant in out-of-school settings that its disavowal in the classroom is detrimental to the transfer of learning beyond the classroom". In classrooms with ubiquitous wifi and mobile devices, this 'disavowal' is much harder to sustain. In schools assuming a siege mentality of banning devices, this disavowal is not only strong but also disempowering for its inhabitants. Fewer and fewer of these exist, but in their place, should be practices that help learners become wise users of 'artifact-supported' learning.

Putnam and Borko then argue that:
The classroom is a powerful environment for shaping and constraining how practicing teachers think and act. Many of their patterns of thought and action have become automatic - resistant to reflection or change. 
They then argue that helping teachers break that chain is important if they are to see what they do through new lens. A Teaching as Inquiry process may help that, for it expects teachers to critically view what they do, seek documented evidence about this, and then ponder its significance and impact as a catalyst for future actions. Sometimes too, this means that someone outside the same context can help those teachers poke a stick at their own pedagogy to see it anew.

And when teachers within one school context participate in a learning community of sharing new materials, strategies and digital tools that support the kind of risk-taking necessary to investigate one's own practices, then the members of this community are able to "draw upon and incorporate each other's expertise to create rich conversations and new insights into teaching and learning". (p. 8).

I have the very great privilege to be working with teachers in a school where this is growing. These volunteers have decided they are willing to put their own practices up for scrutiny and to share those with peers. We are currently getting started. Soon, we'll be contributing to an meeting one evening where we'll discuss the reading I've provided as a GoogleDoc where they have comment rights only. They need to add their thoughts about the reading (about learning theories and digital technologies) as well as the strategy associated with the reading. This is a way of exploring what they might want to try with learners as they find their way with embedding digital technologies into everyday pedagogical practice, regardless of subject.  I can't wait to see what they think, and if Putnam and Borko's fifteen-year-old thinking is as useful as I think it still is.

You never know, my group of teachers might be keen on collaborating on a blog post sometime this year.

Monday, 9 February 2015

IJCEE, Social Justice and eLearning

I am an Associate Editor for the fairly new International Journal of Cyber Ethics in Education and recently put my first guest edited issue to bed, so to speak.

The special issue on Social Justice in eLearning has been placed into the publication process. The call for papers asked authors to consider human concerns arising from the use of ICT in education. Priority has been given to submissions that highlight ethical dilemmas relating to the socially just use of learning technologies, with implications for improved practice and pedagogies.

Social justice is a commitment to equality and fairness alongside recognition that human rights are not in reality shared by all of society due to persistence of power differentials. Marginalization, oppression and discrimination are ongoing factors in the lived experience of some people and groups. Not everyone has a voice or equitable access to educational opportunities. 

  • In what ways can elearning exacerbate or effectively address pre-existing inequities?
  • What new human concerns arise from the use of ICT in education?
  • How can we act to ensure that elearning is a solution to social injustice?

I am grateful to the authors who responded, in some cases after chatting with or hearing me present my own research at conferences like Ascilite (or after I attended their presentations and practically begged them to write up and submit their excellent work).

I am similarly grateful to the reviewers, without whom the process would have stalled completely. Peer review is an essential core to our academic work, and the means of quality assurance and critical appraisal that is precious to the academy. Reviewers from the universities of Waikato, Otago, Massey and overseas institutions gave freely of their time and insight to enhance the quality of work in the special issue. This was a tremendous effort and highly valued.

My first attempt at editing a special issue of a journal was much harder than I anticipated. Challenges included:
  • The paperwork required to address publishers’ requirements
  • Enticing authors to write and submit work
  • Juggling time pressures: Everyone is too busy and deadlines are always too tight
  • Record keeping was a tough ask due to the need to keep track of multiple versions of articles, reviews, blind copies and so on. Usually, being systematic is not a problem for me but I found it a challenge in this instance – I have multiple files of articles, reviews, blind versions, second and third revised copies, copyright agreements, bios, checklists and so on. Next time around, I will be very systematic about record keeping.
The low points were time pressures and doubt over whether the issue would eventually come together.

The easiest and most fun part was coming up with the concept for the special issue.
The highlights occurred each time I read a contribution from an author, and when the edition finally came together.

I have put a lot of myself into this issue as I proposed the theme, solicited the papers and the reviews, reviewed and edited each paper personally and wrote the substantial preface and a book review to round off the issue.

Recently I was asked by another journal editor in chief to edit a special issue for an elearning publication, and I suppressed an almost-hysterical giggle as I politely declined (for now). No, I won’t rush back into this immediately. But, given time, like the pains of childbirth and doctoral thesis, this too will fade. And as with the former, I have learned a lot on the way through.

In the meantime, I look forward to welcoming, along with our whanau of authors, reviewers, the editor in chief and publisher, the upcoming special issue on Social Justice in eLearning in the International Journal of Cyber Ethics in Education.

One of my goals is that this special issue will prompt discussion and further contributions, in relation to subjects like:
  • Online teaching as a caring and ethical practice
  • Equitable access to elearning opportunities, and inclusive design and practices
  • The realm of technoethics: Humanity, technology, moral responsibility and cyberactivism
I encourage others to undertake this challenge. The IJCEE is now calling for articles and proposals for special issues. I hope others will take the plunge and embark on the opportunity to construct a special issue in this vital space. You can be assured that the support from the editor in chief and publisher will be forthcoming, and that the journey will be a rewarding one.